2016 XC World Cup Preview

by
April 23, 2016

The World Cup XC circuit rolls into Cairns, Australia, for round 1 of 2016 season and what a season it is set to be!

Nino Schurter and Jolanda Neff, the dominant Swiss riders, who aren’t afraid to take to the jumps for some added style and advantage over their earth bound competitors, both took the overall in 2015. 2016 however is a different beast entirely, it’s an Olympic year, which always throws a spanner into the works!

Schurter finishes arms raised
Schurter winning

For Schurter there’s one medal missing from his collection, with Olympic bronze and silver medals, as well as numerous World Cup Overall and World Championship titles, could 2016 see a different tactic in search for the elusive Olympic gold?

The pressure will be on from his 2015 challengers, Julien Absalon and Jaroslav Kulhavy, as well as those riders without an Olympic spot and nothing to lose!

jolanda neff uci world cup xc
Jolanda Neff – Our tip for the women’s title

In the women’s category, at just 23, Neff already has an envious collection of trophies, featuring 2 World Championship titles and 2 World Cup over all’s, in 2016 could she add an Olympic medal?

The Tracks:

Rd1 – Cairns, Australia, April 23-24.

Last year started in the rain soaked Czech mountains of Nové Mesto, which takes the honors of becoming the 2016 World Champs venue, with Cairns returning from a one year hiatus. Although this year’s season opener starts in a some what warmer climate on the other side of the world, the track is in a rain forest, so the weather could be repeated, just a little warmed up!

The track is known for it’s descending and technical riding, as are the two raining champs, Schurter missed it in 2014 in pursuit of glory on the road for Orica GreenEdge in the Tour de Romandie, whilst Neff came in 9th, so expect the Swiss dominance to continue!

2014 Results: MEN

1 – Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team)
2 – Mathias Fluckiger (Stockli Pro Team)
3 – Maxime Marotte (BH Suntour KMC)

WOMEN

1. Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sudtirol)
2. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing)
3. Irina Kalentieva

Rd2 – Albstadt, Germany, May 21-22.

The steep and technical Albstadt course saw 4 men a step above the rest in 2015, Absalon, Schurter, Kulhavy and Vogel, but by lap three, four became two and it became a battle of the defending champion and the Swiss contender to the thrown. It was a close-fought battle until the last gravel corner, where Schurter crashed and gifted Absalon his 30th World Cup win, proving that you should never give up until you cross the line!

2015 Results: MEN

1. Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team)
2. Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team)
3. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing)

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WOMEN

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1. Jolanda Neff (Stockli Pro Team)
2. Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida Biking Team)
3. Catherine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)

Rd3 – La Bresse, France, May 28-29.

After a four year break, World Cup XC returns to La Bresse and it’s the same three names that are in contention for the men Schurter, Absalon and Kulhavy. Last time out it was Absalon that took the victory over Kulhavy, despite a small crash, with Schurter pulling out with illness.

2012 Results: MEN

1. Julien Absalon (Orbea Racing Team)
2. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing)
3. Ralf Naff (Multivan Merida Biking Team)

WOMEN

1. Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida Biking Team)
2. Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team)
3. Julie Bresset (BH – SR Suntour – Peisey Vallandry)

Rd4 – Lenzerheide, Switzerland, July 9-10.

Arguably one of the best races of the 2015 season! With home track advantage (quite literally, she has an apartment in town), Jolanda Neff was the favourite going into the race, however it was experience that triumphed over youth! Gunn-Rita and Pendrel overtook and dropped Neff half way round the first lap and drop she did, right back to 12th!

The 42 year old, Gunn-Rita, pressed on attacking hard to take the win by a minute. On the last lap Davison put in a surge, dropping Neff who had climbed back up to the top four, to overtake Pendrel and claim her best World Cup position, 2nd.

2015 Results: MEN

1. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing)
2. Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team)
3. Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida Biking Team)

WOMEN

1. Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida Biking Team)
2. Lea Davison (Specialized Racing)
3. Catherine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)

Rd 5 – Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, August 6-7.

An iconic and much loved venue by riders and spectators alike, Mont-Sainte-Anne is set to be the race of the season! Taking place just two weeks before the XC Olympic race (August 20-21), it has most potential for an upset, those in contention for Olympic glory will be playing it safe, where as those without a place at the games, will be laying it all on the line. Could this see a new name atop the podium, or will the old guard prevail?

2015 Results: MEN

1. Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team)
2. Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team)
3. Florian Vogel (Focus XC Team)

WOMEN

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1. Jolanda Neff (Stockli Pro Team)
2. Catherine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)
3. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Raboliv)

Rd 6 – Vallnord, Andorra, September 3-4.

Playing host to the World Championships in 2015, Vallnord becomes the season closer for 2016. There are not many places with a better atmosphere after a race, so making this the final stop of the tour was a wise decision during a grueling Olympic year.

2015 Results (World Championships): MEN

1. Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team)
2. Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team)
3. Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida Biking Team)

WOMEN

1. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Raboliv)
2. Irina Kalentyeva (Moebel Maerki MTB Pro Team)
3. Yana Belomoina (Betch.NL Superior Brentjens MTB Race Team)

Who will take risks and who will turn their year into a one race season, throwing it all at The Games in Rio?

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